There aren’t too many rules about what makes a successful poetry film, but one I tend to follow a lot when deciding what to post here is that a too-close match of imagery to text usually feels redundant and reductive, diminishing a poem rather than adding an extra dimension. But in this new film from the UK Poetry Society, somehow a teenage poet, Shakira Morar, and director Suzanne Cohen manage to break that rule, and I think it’s because the limpid quality of the text allows the illustrative imagery to attain a symbolic, even mythic weight. Watch it and judge for yourself. Here’s the description on the Poetry Society’s website:
On World Poetry Day 2017, we are delighted to present a new poetry film, produced by The Poetry Society to celebrate the overall winner of the Poetry for Peace 2016 project, chosen by Judith Palmer. The film features the winning poem by Shakira Morar, aged 17, from Headington School, Oxford, who reads the poem in the film, in English, while the Arabic translation by Manal Nakli appears as subtitles. The poem is inspired by a 4,000 year-old Mesopotamian jug in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford and the film is directed by Suzanne Cohen.
‘Poetry for Peace, 2016’ is part of the award winning, Arts Council-funded ‘Writing Mesopotamia’ collaboration between Oxford poet Jenny Lewis and the distinguished Iraqi poet Adnan al-Sayegh aimed at building bridges between English and Arabic-speaking communities. It involved Adnan and Jenny working with the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, The Poetry Society and more than sixty 11-17 year olds from four Oxford schools – Oxford Spires Academy, the Sudanese Saturday School, Headington School and Cherwell School – on themes of heritage and peace to produce poems for a competition judged by the poets.
This is part of a series called Beginning to See the Light by Corinne Silva. The text is by Jane Draycott, “a UK-based poet with a particular interest in sound art and collaborative work.” As the Poetry Society (U.K.) webpage explains,
The Poetry Society and Jaybird Live Literature commissioned six poets to create new pieces to celebrate National Poetry Day 2015, the theme of which was ‘light’. The poems followed the path of light over one October day. Artist and filmmaker Corinne Silva then made filmpoems of six of the poems, which you can watch on Vimeo or YouTube.
I see these as more in the video art tradition than previous poetry films sponsored by the Society; some of the imagery reoccurs from film to film, and watching them in order does give an interesting impression of the passing of time. But the juxtaposition of footage and text most often feels arbitrary, so for me they don’t really work as videopoems or filmpoems. Still, kudos for the Poetry Society for continuing to push the envelope and sponsor interesting multimedia poetry projects.
Alastair Cook of Filmpoem directs, with cinematography by James William Norton and sound by Luca Nasciuti. “The Day the Deer Came” was the Second Prize winner in the UK’s 2014 National Poetry Competition. The Vimeo description notes that “Filmpoems of the top three winning poems have been commissioned in partnership with Alastair Cook and Filmpoem. Filmpoems of all eleven winning poems will be available to watch later this year, and will tour at festivals around the country and beyond.”
For more on the poet, Joanne Key, see her page at the Poetry Society website.
A “filmpoem by Alicja Pawluczuk. Commissioned in collaboration with Alastair Cook and Filmpoem,” according to a page for the poem at The Poetry Society’s website. “Last exit to Luton” by Fran Lock was the Third Prize winner in the UK’s 2014 National Poetry Competition. Click through and scroll down for more on the poet.